You know that feeling you get when a noisy room suddenly empties and you’re the last one left? Almost at once, you become acutely aware of a ticking wall clock. A palpable whoosh tenses your ears and flows straight to the center of your being.

Christmas Eve is like that on a grander scale. The crescendoed roar that begins in November comes to a sudden hush after sunset on the 24th of December. The quietude itself is almost deafening.

Strip malls and retail hubs that were overrun daily for the last month are suddenly ghost towns. Left turns are possible everywhere. The machinery of modern civilization is finally powered down. And people, with no other excuse not to be, are suddenly present.

Regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs, eves like the one before Christmas Day are like forced societal meditations. They’re common stopping points.

The eves in December are two of the few times of the year we truly acknowledge our existence. During the year, we’re just too overrun and overwrought to sense our own clocks. But like the one in the suddenly-quiet room, they were there all along.

When everything else is finally taken away, our clocks – our lives – appear, and invariably, things have advanced a lot farther than we expected. It never fails: almost on cue we ask “where did the year go?”

It’s really too bad eves don’t come around more often. Enjoy every minute and person of this one. Enjoy every after.